The theme of the 1983 Orientation Program “A New Beginning to an Old Tradition” began a new era in the history of the college. That fall marked the beginning of coeducation at Saint Vincent. A freshman class of 240 students, whom 33 percent were women, enrolled. Within ten years the goal of having women represent half the total enrollment was achieved.
One hears that the transition was so successful because of wide consultation and careful planning within the community. More significant, however, was the spirit of Benedictine hospitality and community that permeates the campus. The first women students were genuinely welcomed into the community and were invited to make themselves equal partners with the men. In welcoming the first coeducational class at the beginning of the 137th academic year, the president, Father Augustine Flood, invited all the new members of the Saint Vincent community “to take ownership.” Indeed, women students have accepted the invitation and have in turn made significant contributions in all aspects of college life.
Women, like men, are generally attracted to the college by its academic reputation. Majors in business, science, math/engineering are as popular among women students as they are among men. Female students, like their male counterparts, successfully pursue graduate studies and careers in these fields as in others.
From old photograph and from conversations with alumni, one can tell that sports have always been a big part of campus life. The college encourages all students to get involved in some sport, and only secondarily emphasizes winning intercollegiate championships. Yet athletic teams have often distinguished themselves in intercollegiate competition. Older alumni talk about the baseball teams that were good enough to play exhibition games with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 1950 Bearcat Tangerine Bowl victory over Emory and Henry College of Virginia is still recalled by many alumni.
Women students have been successful in the college’s sports programs. Interest in intramural sports has been high. Competition in women’s intramural flag football has been as intense as that of the men’s intramural competition. Women have also distinguished themselves in intercollegiate athletics, particularly in basketball. Women’s basketball teams have won conference titles eight of the past ten years, and have participated in national championship competition for the past three years.
Women students equally with men have lent their skills to many areas of campus life: prefecting, student government, orientation programs, campus ministry, newspaper, yearbook, honor societies in fact, to every club and organization. Women have served as student government president and have been the recipients of the prestigious President’s Award for the past five years. The Campus Ministry Program has been the center of campus life because of the contributions of men and women as singers, lectors, eucharistic ministers, organizers of social activities, and as volunteers for outreach programs at Clelian Heights School for Exception Children and the Jubilee Soup Kitchen.
Coeducation has become of much a part of our tradition that imagining a time when Saint Vincent College was not coed is difficult. Boniface Wimmer and the other Benedictines who founded the school would be proud of this accomplishment.
From Saint Vincent: A Benedictine Place; Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B., editor; Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, 1995